Cay Caulker, Belize

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April 2, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

As I sit down to write this, Rob is finishing polishing the stainless on the out side of the boat, I have just done some cleaning and we are getting ready for Rob’s brother Kevin to arrive early afternoon.  He is winging his way here and I am wondering what he is thinking about as far as expectations.  People hear about our experiences or read about them but until you are on board and have some idea of the life of a cruiser, it is hard to know what to expect.  Well, we are as ready as we will ever be.  This is Kevin’s first time on our boat and one a trip like this with us so it is going to be interesting!

North Turneffe "Dock?"

We spent the last week visiting the Atolls.  We told you about Turneffe in the last log but later moved to south Turneffe.  Didn’t much care for it due to really shallow water and not much protection, at least from that wind direction.  Even though we were not close to land, we did get a lot of mosquitos which stayed with us for a few days hidden inside the main cabin.  They are pretty slow so can get them but they are sure a bloody mess.

We got to Light House Reef and anchored behind the largest land mass at the southern end called Long Cay.  We had been there 4 years earlier.  We found some great snorkel spots and even did a couple of dives on our hookah.  It was difficult for me to gain my confidence back but I did fine on the last dive.  Diving with a hookah is different than a tank.  We wear no buoyancy vest and so my buoyancy, the ability to rise and fall at will, changes only with my breathing.  Being properly weighted helps and adding more weight the second dive made a big difference.  Diving here is easier because the dive sights are marked with mooring to which you can tie up either your dinghy or even your big boat as large dive boats use them all the time.  The trouble with the hookah is that we can’t go very deep.  We did this as a safety feature but it is frustrating to be able to look over the wall and not dive along side of it.  The fish were very friendly at the last place though.  In fact, I think the dive is called The Fish Bowl.  It is a shallower dive and very colorful in both coral and fish.

One of the big attractions at Light House is Half Moon Cay.  There is anchoring there, lots of snorkeling and diving close but on the island is a large rookery of both frigate birds but also the more rare red footed boobie bird.  Belize has started charging $10 per person per day to be in this area so we thought we would wait and do it when Kevin comes.  We did this 14 years ago on our first trip to Belize when we went a week on a dive boat.

Blue Hole (Stock Photo)

The Blue Hole is also there and they are charging about $35 per person per day.  We dove the hole 14 years ago and it was the biggest nothing we ever did so we don’t need to go there again.  Seeing it from the air would be the attraction for me!

We met some great boaters and hope to cross paths again but we also went ashore on Long Island.  We had done that 4 years ago and met a couple, Ron and Lindy, who had built a house on that island and we wanted to see how they were doing.  The mosquitos were swarming, literally.  We sprayed but in certainly areas it was like a cloud.  We had not had that 4 years ago.  We met a couple who were on their boat in the anchorage and also building a raised smaller home on the island.  She told us that they had run out of the spray they use but they would be doing it again the next day.  She said that after about 2 or 3 days, it should be better again.

We went to see Ron and Lindy and found Ron.  Lindy was in Belize City doing provisioning and would be gone about a week total though was due back in a couple of days.  The house Ron and Lindy built has a mirror image right next door that they rent out as a lodge for guests.  It is fully equipped with kitchen and bathroom and three bedrooms, two with queen beds and one with bunks.

Ron showed us around to where Betty and Doug were building their house near by and we saw their project in progress.  The mosquitos are worse at ground level so as we climbed the ladder in to the platform above, we patted ourselves down, killing the swarm that was on us and once they were in check, we didn’t get swarmed again.  I was only exposed from the knees down and my face but Ron was shirt less and it didn’t seem to bother him much.

Betty (l.), Doug and Ron (without beard)

We invited the three of them over for dinner as they both were low on provisions.  We had an interesting evening.  Visiting with people who have a different approach to life is always eye opening.  I understand a little of why they would like living such an isolated life but it doesn’t mean it is the right thing for me.

I did want to share a story that Ron told us.  Two years ago, The Today Show did a piece on Belize and did filming off of a large Catamaran with Matt Laur right off of Long island.  The head electrician for the piece had been there setting up for days.  A storm came through and got sea water on all the expensive equipment.  Ron, an electrician (though by his own comments, not as sophisticated as working with the equipment that was damaged)volunteered to help.  He and the NBC guy spent the whole night, first hauling the cables and generator to where they could be cleaned with fresh water and then resetting them.  It was an all night job and Ron jumped in without any suggestion of compensation.  He was right behind the producer during the shoot.  One technician was to keep a mike pointed at the helicopter that was over head but was having a hard time seeing it so Ron became his spotter.  It was interesting for him to see first hand what goes in to a shoot like this.

When it was over, he was asked if he would like the generator.  He said that he could use something like that but didn’t have the money to even consider it.  They gave him the tower, loads of cable and other items and the generator.  They said that he had really helped to save the multi million dollar production and it would cost them too much to reclaim the items.  Ron, actually performed a service of cleaning up and “disposing” of their gear so it saved them a lot of work as well.  So though he would have done the work to be helpful to someone who was in need of help, he certainly got something material out of it.  The story does not end there though.  He stayed in touch with the NBC electrician and has asked him some questions about hooking things up etc.  The island had internet connection but no direct phone link to the mainland.  A guest at the lodge here died because they couldn’t phone for help so Ron went about seeing what it would take to make it happen.  He contacted his NBC friend who told him what kind of adaptor he needed and suggested that they were breaking down a satellite truck and he could have a used piece from that.  When the package came in the mail, it was a brand new state of the art, very expensive piece of equipment.  When Ron wrote to suggest he could not accept something so expensive, he was told, that it was the pleasure of NBC for what he had done.

Now, the moral of the story may seem like you get material reward for offers of service but that, while in this case it might be true, it is not the story of Ron.  You could see from the way he told the story that performing the service and making a friend of one of the crew was the big pay off for him.  That lasting connection, I am sure, means more than any piece of equipment.

I guess, ultimately, this is what we feel from the cruising life.  We find so many friendly people, boaters and locals alike.  They open themselves to offering help of any kind, friendship even for strangers, a comforting voice on the radio letting you know someone cares about your progress and safety.  Perhaps that is what being in a more isolated location does.  When we don’t expect someone like government to take care of us, we are more likely to help take care of each other.  Maybe that is why this independent living is so appealing.

Steve, Nancy with their son, Scott and 'Flat Sally'

We got all the way back from Light House Cay to Cay Caulker to meet with Nancy and Steve and their son Scott who had been with them during the week.  We enjoyed another wonderful dinner creation by Nancy and heard all about their exploits.  We also met flat Sally.  Flat Stanley is her counter part and these cut out dolls are often sent by children to people so they can use the doll in pictures and hear about an adventure.  Scott’s niece had send flat Sally to him and he used her in very creative ways.  It was so funny to see how he had put her in the story and the places he found for her.  Scott is so much fun, we wish we had had more time with him.  They left Friday morning for a Marina near Belize City called Cucumber Beach.  They will take Scott to the airport today and leave on a land tour for several days.  We will drop Kevin off in  Belize City on Friday and probably meet up with Steve and Nancy on our way south that night.  We will enjoy some time together again as it will be time to do Nancy’s hair at the end of the week and Steve may need another haircut as well.  I am starting to think Rob needs some work so may make an event out of it.  I guess I will just have to go shaggy as I am not about to let anyone else around the scissors!

Hopefully we will have some great stories and pictures to share next week.  Thinking of you all, some doing your own adventuring on the high seas and others making plans to do so.  What ever you are doing, I hope you have……

Fair Winds,
Rob and Sue
Cay Caulker, Belize

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